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Oct 1, 2021
Employee Spotlight: Linda Sanders on Embracing Change, Baby Boomers and Tech, and Women in the Workplace

Cigna is proud to promote an inclusive and supportive work environment – built upon the knowledge and life experiences of all generations. As an organization with over 70,000 employees worldwide, we thrive when we embrace and learn from the different perspectives, successes, and obstacles of all of our employees.

Take a moment to meet one of those employees, Linda Sanders, project manager, North America business delivery.

Sanders has been with Cigna for 38 years and recently sat down with us to chat about how to work with different generations, the truth about Baby Boomers and tech, as well as her advice for women in the workplace.


Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Cigna

At Cigna, we take an expansive view of diversity, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, veteran status, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We believe that diverse perspectives and different ways of thinking help us anticipate and meet our customer needs in new ways. 

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Give us a brief background of your career path at Cigna

I started at Cigna July 1983, 38 years ago on a team that traveled throughout the U.S. introducing automation to Workers’ Compensation Claims offices. Prior to the introduction of Cigna’s ground-breaking claims technology, claims were administered on paper and checks were cut and mailed. Throughout my career at Cigna, I have worked in an affiliate “start-up” and several organizations that are no longer affiliated with Cigna. I worked in Corporate IT supporting HR, Marketing and Finance. My most outstanding years have been the past 14, where I have been with Cigna International. I have held roles in training and audit, although most of my roles have been related to project management. It’s been a remarkable journey.

What has been most impactful to you working at Cigna?

The people I’ve met! I have had incredible mentors and have worked with outstanding people. In addition, Cigna has afforded me opportunities to grow personally and professionally through education, growth assignments, and mentoring. Prior to joining Cigna, I had never been out of the U.S. and never further west of Harrisburg, PA. I have since had the good fortune to travel throughout the country, as well as to several locations throughout the world.

Within your time at Cigna, what do you feel are the successes (and obstacles) working with different generations?

Over the years, my colleagues and management have gotten younger (than me). I currently have co-workers that are younger than my daughter and several that weren’t born yet when I started with Cigna. The biggest challenge is getting over it. It’s a mental exercise. You are forced to shift your mindset and see the new energy, new thoughts and new ideas that are presented when you look beyond their youth. It can be tough. But there is so much to learn from each other. I feel it’s enlightening. While I can offer historic knowledge and maturity, I gain so much from the diversity of experiences and knowledge that my younger co-workers bring.  It’s about being open to change.

To put this into perspective I share one of my favorite stories of my first position at Cigna, a Systems Trainer. This is 1983. My manager told me the office personnel in the Fremont, CA office had come to introduce technology which would change the way they worked.  The reaction was remarkable. Many of the “older” workers were upset. I recall many crying because they didn’t want change. On the other hand, I recall a young man standing in the back of office.  “Don’t put a computer on my desk”, he shouts, “I’m a college graduate, and I don’t type.” It was a great lesson in adopting to change. One that I have hung closely to as I have navigated the changes of the last several decades.

It’s been said that Baby Boomers struggle with tech, do you feel that is accurate? 

While many Baby Boomers have kept up with technology changes, I have not.  I recognize that my 4 year old grandson can run circles around me!  I’m not as astute as the kids coming out of school with the latest in gadgets and software, but that’s okay. I am not afraid to ask for help. One day you wake up and realize no one knows everything -- it’s liberating!

What advice do you have for millennials or younger Gen Xers trying to manage a Baby Boomer in a professional capacity?

Consider for many, the 60s are the new 40s. Many of us still want to grow in our careers. We have not reached our potential and are striving to do so. Others are content to be valued contributors, letting younger peers take on the spotlight and the long hours that are required to achieve it. My advice: Ask. Be careful of assumptions and bias. Nurture relationships that foster cross-generational mentoring and support. Have a conversation and be open to options when managing someone who is well into their career.

Can you speak to any strengths and challenges you’ve faced, professionally and personally?

My personal challenges are not uncommon for many women my age. I was raised by traditional parents who believed that women could be nurses, teachers, or secretaries. Besides, you were only going to work until you got married and had children.  As I reflect back to those days, I can see from their perspective.

As it turned out, I was a single mother and elected none of the career paths advocated by my parents. I wanted to grow professionally while still keeping a roof over my head. It was a challenge. I had to take on risks that were not encouraged by family, some co-workers and managers, as well as close friends.  It made me stronger although at a cost. I had to overcome comments like, “women don’t do that kind of work”. I had to see myself different than the woman that many thought I would be.

My professional struggles were primarily driven by the messages that I was told as a child about limitations and the expectations that society placed on young woman at the time -- marriage, children, housekeeping. Over the years, it was enlightening to see women take on roles of importance.  I saw that change occur in the world and at Cigna. 38 years ago you would were hard pressed to find a woman or a person of color in senior leadership. Since then, Cigna has evolved. I am excited to see diversity in leadership. I have confidence that there are opportunities now for those who seek to pursue them.

Do you have any advice for women?

Embrace and evolve. In the past few years, I have graduated from Drexel University with my long awaited Bachelor’ Degree courtesy of Cigna. I have taken on yoga and hiking. I have run two half marathons and moved to the beach. I work on being healthy, staying active and contributing to my family, Cigna and my community. I take on new experiences and try to learn as much as I can.

What advice do you have for mid to late Gen Xers and Baby Boomers who want to advance their career?

Ageism is out there. You need to acknowledge it and move on. Know who you are and what you want and then, pursue it. Use your career and life experience to give you the momentum to take on new challenges.  Be open to learning, ask questions and don’t stop.

Have you received any notable career advice?

I’ll share a short story from early in my career. I was driving with an “older” colleague, Bob.  I was young and not particularly social. Bob shared this message about success: “Linda, it comes down to relationships. That’s what will make the difference.”

I followed that advice. It has helped me through the years. I have met remarkable people that have given me encouragement and support both professionally and personally. By nurturing my relationships, opportunities have been presented that I would have never had had otherwise.  

What’s next for you?

I don’t see the type of retirement many of us saw our parents or grandparents fall in to -- shuffle board, mahjong and early-bird specials. I still likely have another half-marathon to run, a graduate degree to earn and yoga to master. I have recently taken up hiking and there are lots of mountains to cover. I have given thought to writing a novel, learning to be a standup comic or a social worker in a future career. In the meantime, I am developing while I contribute as a Cigna employee.

Do you have any final comments?

When we stop learning, that’s where we start to fail!

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Cigna

At Cigna, we take an expansive view of diversity, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, veteran status, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We believe that diverse perspectives and different ways of thinking help us anticipate and meet our customer needs in new ways. 

Learn More